OverviewThe Refrigerator Couloir is a beautiful line nestled high on the North-Northwest face of Ice Mountain which is the central peak of the Three Apostles group, Sawatch Range. Best climbed from May-July, it has just enough technicality and difficulties to keep things interesting.
I was surprised this route was not on SP yet. The Refrigerator Couloir has been sitting on my mental tick-list for over 5 years, and finally got ticked. It has been a long-time favorite route of spring and summer snow climbers with plenty of outdated and highly variable route descriptions out there.
In this route description and associated images, bear in mind that my experience with this route was in the early spring (Apr. 28) in 2012 (very dry snow year). All you SP'ers need to help me with this route description, there will be some assumptions made about the conditions in late spring and summer here that may be incorrect. Drop a line and I will make additions/corrections as further evidence arises.
Driving directions: see main page for South Winfield and 4WD parking areas. 4WD road only accessible when clear of snow. Generally, if you can get up the road 3/4 miles past Winfield, you should be able to make it to 4WD trailhead. Be sure to account for extra time and distance hiking the mostly flat road if inaccessible.
Approach: From the 4WD trailhead, continue south along main Apostles trail. Just after the Hamilton non-town site, find a sign announcing the Apostle Basin/Lake Ann trail junction. Take the left Apostle Basin Trail and continue south along the main creek until the trail crosses a log. If there is snow covering tails or several climbers trails making a mess of the route to this log... look at your map and surroundings... near the base of the ridge that separates the "Apostles" creek from the "Lake Ann" creek is a slightly steeper rise in the ridge, here you will find the log to cross. If the creek drainage is looking more like a steeper gulch or mini-canyon you went too far.
Follow this minor ridge a bit then hang along the bench on the west side of the creek as you head south to a clearing of willows. Find a crossing over the creek here, follow for a bit, then head almost directly uphill aiming for the spire that guards the left side of the entrance to the upper basin below North Apostle and Ice Mountain. This will bypass the cliffs at the base of the upper basin. The very base of the Refrigerator can be seen now. Trend along the left side of the basin then head for the base of the climb.
Route DescriptionClimb the lower couloir to the Y. Options probably exist here depending on conditions, but the right side is the main route... and recommended.
Climb through the narrow section and the steep section
then bypass the cornice and top out.
Here again, options probably exist depending on conditions to reach the summit. We chose to downclimb the back side (south) face about 50 feet then traverse climber's right (east) and scramble up-right to the summit. Use your judgement.
Descend this route. Or there are more options in the conditions-based realm to descend the NE ridge route as described by Kane here.
During our outing (4/28/12), we headed to N Apostle after downclimbing the Refrigerator and re-ascending the saddle. No safety-based decisions even gave thought to going near the NE ridge route in loose snow.